tofino wilderness profile - sydney valley

Tofino Wilderness Profile: The Sydney Valley

by Tom Stere


One of the first times I was at the Sydney River was to look at the potential of establishing a base site for research into the complexities of the temperate forest ecosystem. Sydney was a perfect choice as it is a large intact watershed adjacent to further intact areas (Pretty Girl and Megin).

This is a rare situation on Vancouver Island. The significance of such a place is without equal on the west coast of the Island.

Sydney River is all the more incredible due to its remoteness and deep fjord entry. The estuary is intensely alive: flocks of swans, seals, bears and a myriad of species that make up the web of life. As you enter the valley the riffles, glides and pools of the river hold coho, chinook and chum salmon that use this system, as they have for millennia. Walking up the river you have a sense of an ancient tradition playing out.

Once, after swimming down the river doing fish counts, I came out into the estuary silently and unnoticed by the trumpeter swans feeding there. As I floated by, watching them through my mask, I had an incredible split image of orange webbed feet under water and white feathers contrasted against the dark spruce trees on shore.

When you get to know a valley by swimming it, as I did, you have a sense of the seamlessness between forest and ocean. The giant, vegetarian basking sharks that I saw near the Sydney estuary and the carnivores in the forest are all part of the same place.

The forests of the Sydney valley have that archetypal grandeur that is so familiar in Clayoquot Sound: towering spruce, groves of primal cedar and pure stands of hemlock.

Working up here over so many years has given me a strong connection to place. However, the true value of the Sydney valley is its contiguity to a vast area of uninterrupted wilderness that is so critical to the preservation of the ecological integrity of the temperate rainforest.

In 1991, the Clayoquot Biosphere Project began research in the Sydney valley. Tom Stere, as Field Operations Manager for the organization, was involved in the research from 1991-1998.

The Sydney Valley is a massive 6,000 hectares of intact old growth forest. This area is roughly 20 Miles north west of Tofino around the backside of Flores Island and just north of Hot Springs Cove. To the east, Pretty Girl Cove, Talbot Creek, Megin River and Moyeha River form a landscape of silver and green – uninterrupted, rugged, lush and very mysterious, covering some 70,000 hectares.

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The Sydney Valley - a Tofino wilderness profile written by Tom Stere for Tofino Time magazine in January 2004.

tofino time january 2004

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